Wandering Heart: Songs of Loudest Praise

Rev. Taylor Hall Avatar

As we gather here on this Palm Sunday, we are reminded of the joyous cries that filled the air on that remarkable day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. “Hosanna, Hosanna – blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!”

Our scripture text invites us to imagine ourselves in the crowd, witnessing this extraordinary event. During this Season of Lent, most of our imagining and witnessing has come through the eyes of Peter. But as Holy Week begins with the Triumphant Entry as found in the Gospel of John, Peter is no longer front and center, and so we imagine he is with the rest of the disciples when Jesus enters Jerusalem.

The disciples, including Peter, stood there in awe, surrounded by a sea of people shouting hosannas. Can you imagine the excitement? The confusion? They were witnessing something incredible, something that would be etched in their memories forever. The singing, the shouts of praise, the palm branches waving in the air, all of it was subversive, courageous, and contagious.

In that moment, the disciples might have wondered why the crowd was praising Jesus instead of Caesar. This was truly an act of great defiance. And we all know where it will lead: Jesus’ crucifixion. They also might have questioned their own role in this unfolding story. Remember all of the things Jesus has revealed to them up to this point! Things that have often left them with more questions than answers.

But one thing was clear: they couldn’t help but be caught up in the joyous celebration. The disciples, including Peter, were part of something bigger than themselves. They were witnessing a divine moment, a moment that would change the course of history.

As we head into Holy Week, we are invited to imagine where Peter might be in the parade. Look back at all the events that have led up to this point, specifically for Peter.

Peter has experienced incredible moments of faith and trial. He has witnessed miracles and walked on water. He has professed his faith and stumbled along the way.

Peter’s journey began with an abundant catch, and a charge to drop everything and follow. He left his nets behind and embarked on a life-changing adventure with Jesus. Along the way, he witnessed the power and authority of his teacher. He saw the sick healed, the blind regain their sight, and the dead brought back to life. Peter clung to Jesus for rescue when he himself walked on water. He proclaimed his faith confidently, declaring Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

But Peter also faced moments of doubt and uncertainty. He questioned Jesus, wondering about the implications of his teachings. He even rebuked Jesus when he spoke of his impending suffering and death. Peter’s journey was not without its challenges and moments of weakness.

And now, as Peter along with the other disciples stands among the crowds on this Palm Sunday, they are faced with a choice. Will they fully embrace the joy and celebration of this moment, or will theirs doubts and fears creep in once again? How will they respond to the singing and the courageous shouts of praise?

And if we still are wandering with Peter this Lent, how about us? How will we respond to these shouts of praise?

Seven years ago, on a Palm Sunday, I was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. Yes, I will tell you about my ordi-versary every single year on Palm Sunday… because it was the most joyous Sunday of my life. Just like the disciples, I was in a crowd that day, amidst a sea of smiling faces and encouraging nods. I vividly remember the warmth I felt from the congregation, their hands raised in blessing, their voices echoing in the space as they said ‘Amen’ to the promises we made together. I remember looking into their eyes and seeing the joy and hope that mirrored my own. The songs of loudest praise filled my heart as I embarked on this sacred calling.

The same joy and excitement that flooded the city of Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday also filled my church the day of my ordination.

The feelings of Palm Sunday – the joy, the hope, the unity, and the love, serves to remind us of our collective journey as believers. We are all on this journey together, called to carry our crosses, to share in the joy and sorrow, the victory and defeat, the certainty and doubt, much like Peter, our flawed yet faithful disciple.  

Think about the journey our congregation has been on. We have faced difficult times, internal conflicts, and an identity crisis as a community of faith. We too are flawed yet faithful. But this year, we have found clarity and purpose. We are listening to who God is calling us to be, and we are living into that identity. You can feel the joy, optimism, and hope that radiates off our people and our community. You walk through the doors, and you feel like you have come home. This is a joyous place to be; a joyous community to be a part of!  Do you agree?!

As we wave our palms today, let us remember that it is good to celebrate. Like the crowds on that first Palm Sunday, we may face challenges and uncertainties in the days ahead. We sure have the last couple of years, and the truth is, our future will hold more. But in this moment, we can bask in the joy of praising our Lord, who rides into our lives with love, grace, and transformation.

My friends, today we stand in the joyous shouts of Palm Sunday. We join the crowd in waving our palm branches and lifting our voices in praise. We celebrate the coming of our Lord, just as the crowds did on that day. We embrace the joy and excitement of this moment, knowing that we are part of something extraordinary.

As I said, we will face moments of uncertainty and struggle. We may find ourselves questioning our faith, wondering if we can truly continue on this journey. We might even question whether we feel like we belong to this community or whether we still feel God’s presence in our lives.

The truth is; on my most difficult and challenging moments of ministry, I try to remember the joy I felt the day of my ordination and find gratitude for this odd yet wondrous calling.

In those moments of hardship and struggle, we must remember the joyous cries of Palm Sunday. We must remember the Hosannas and the songs of loudest praise! We must remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of a divine story – God’s story – a story of redemption and love.

In this story, we are called to be participants, not spectators. Because when Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, knowing it would lead to his suffering and death, he did it for us! For us!

So as we journey through this Holy Week, we can hold on to the joy and celebration of Palm Sunday. We can carry it with us, knowing that even in the face of trials and hardships, there is hope. There is a Savior who walks with us, who understands our doubts and fears, and who offers us grace and forgiveness. This Savior was willing to die for us… and he did. He died for us. And to show just how much he truly loves us, he did the one thing no one else could. He defeated death, rose to new life, and promised the same for us. And that is why we shout with joy, not just on Easter Sunday, but every Sunday. Including this Palm Sunday.

So, my friends, wave your palms high, sing your hosannas loud, and let your praise be contagious. Let us walk this journey of Holy Week with open hearts and minds, fully embracing the joy, the pain, and the hope it brings.

And whatever hardships we face beyond Holy Week, as individuals or as a community of faith, we remember our most joyous of moments together and find gratitude for how God is still working through us.

May our shouts of praise and the waving of palms on this Palm Sunday be a reminder to all of us the joy and hope we have in Jesus Christ. And may we carry that hope with us throughout this Holy Week and beyond.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!”